“Blowin’ in the Wind”: Bob Dylan, Sam Shepard and the Question of American Identity

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Katherine Weiss’s chapter addresses the ways both Dylan and Sam Shepard work to destabilize American myths while insisting upon the very necessity of such myths—in the form of masks, or always mutating performances. By focusing specifically on Shepard’s relationship with and effort to understand him, Weiss reveals the significance of Dylan’s protean nature (as it relates to America’s tendency to get trapped in, or to reify, its necessary myths). At the same time, she shows how Dylan and Shepard collaborated to break down outmoded myths by resurrecting, necessarily, new, albeit more temporary, unstable, performative ones—especially in their interrogation of the concept of American identity. Weiss draws particular attention to Shepard and Dylan’s collaboration on the song “Brownsville Girl” (1986).